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Saturday, September 3, 2011

Number Talks

I’ve had a quite a few people e-mail me about Number Talks. So I wanted to devote this post to how Number Talks operate in my classroom.
When my students first walk into the room they answer the Question of the Day, then immediately get to work on our daily story problem. After that the even numbered students play a math game with another even numbered student. The odd numbered students participate in Morning Reading. The each have a pocket filled with just right books for them. These books are separate from their Read to Self books. Then the next day we switch.

Around 8:30 we have Math Morning Meeting which includes Number Talks.
Here are the main resources I use for Number Talks.
Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies, Grades K-5It Makes Sense!: Using Ten-frames to Build Number Sense, Grades K-2

This part of Math Morning Meeting only takes about 10-15 minutes…and my students love it. The purpose of Number Talks is to get students to think about number…not in the addition or subtraction sense…but it the ability to take numbers apart, to know what “Five” or “Six” or “Ten” is. It’s the ability to connect what they know about one number to help them with another number.
Right now there are two main tools I use during Number Talks. Eventually I’ll add Ten Frames:
Dot Cards:
I made a set for 5-9. In the yellow basket are dot cards I made using paper plates and sticky dots. Regular dot cards are in the gift bag. I decided to make my own because I could create what my students needed to focus on.

How do I use them: I quickly flash a card or plate, then ask the students what they see.
One of our routines is when you think you know how many dots there are, put a quiet thumb up. I do this because once hands start flying in the air, a student who’s still thinking will probably stop.
When they all have their thumbs up I ask first: “How many did you see?”
I take and record ALL answers…even the misconceptions. If I hear a few students who say the same number back to back I’ve developed a signal…”Those of you that saw six too…give me a pinky up”.
Then I’ll call on students and ask them to tell me how they saw _____ (whatever the amount was). Below are examples of what they might say.

Sometimes I’ll ask the student who had a misconception if they still saw what they said at first. Their response is no…but then I’ll ask them to tell me how/why they decided to change what they saw. I want to make sure they see the number for themselves and not just because of what their classmate said.
The first day my students wanted to count all the dots individually…but I encouraged them to look for groups of dots. I’m only flashing the cards for 3-5 seconds. They are getting better and better at subtizing or seeing chunks of dots.
Click here to download your dot cards.

The students love using the Rekenreks. I’ll usually ask them to show me a particular number. On Thursday we worked on seven. Students pulled over beads on the top and bottom to show seven. Then we went around and the students told me how they made seven. Responses: “I have 4 on the top and 3 on the bottom.” “I have 6 on the top and 1 on the bottom.” As the students told me I  recorded all the different combinations. This will become our Anchor chart for seven.

Guess My Number
Every time I flip my chart over to Guess My Number…my students cheer with delight. This is such a simple and quick activity…but my students could play this for hours. They like the idea of guessing my number. 
The first week of school we worked with 1-10. Then I added 11-15. Next week I’ll add 16-20.
I’m sure everybody has played this game. I choose a number in my head then the students have to guess.
For example if I’m thinking of 10 and a student says is your number 7, I’ll say my number is more than seven. Then they have to tell me which numbers to cover up because they will be excluded from the guess.
So it really gets them thinking in terms of more than and less than…instead of just calling out random numbers. Each guess helps them narrow their focus.
See…. simple.
But your students can gain so much knowledge about number just from Number Talks alone. I hope this post helps and if you haven’t maybe you’ll try it in your classroom. If you are doing Number Talks how about leaving a comment about your routine.

If you click on the picture below you can see a video clip about Number Talks.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This post is sooooo helpful!!!

  2. Hi,
    I love these books too! I've created smartboard lessons based on Number Talks. If you are interested in using any of the documents I have created, feel free to go to my blog to download them. I'm still working on downloading the K lessons and soon to download the Grade 1-2 lessons for direct instruction.

  3. I love the guess my number activity and you show how simple it is to put together.

  4. I have those books ~ they're amazing ~ and I do exactly the same routines. I like your colourful dot plates. Mine aren't quite as pretty :) Thanks for sharing.

    Grade ONEderful

  5. Your ideas are awesome! Thanks for sharing!

    Kim @ SaylorsLog

  6. Thank you for sharing your dot cards! We focus on number recognition the first month, so those will come in handy. I have the patterns to make the dot plates, but the cards are a great addition!


    First Grade Garden <-- new blog! :)

  7. Thank you for the really great ideas!

  8. This post was very helpful!! I really like the idea of dot cards. Thank you!

  9. My Number Talks book arrived yesterday. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.You are awesome. I can't wait to get my firsties started on "number talks"

  10. Thank you for the big dot cards. I found some other dot cards but they were pretty small. I tried them with my students but I wasn't consistent. I will try again so my students won't miss out on learning.:)

    Kinders on the Block

  11. Our county is training us and bought us Number Talks! We just got our rekenreks and kp ten frame tiles! I love my dot cards. I made two sets. One for introducing each year and another just for practice. Then I use first grade cards to practice addition skills! It's great!

  12. I have just finished reading the book, Number Talks. It was great and I have abetter understanding of what number talks are and how to make them work in my room. I love the dot cards you made! Thank you so much for sharing!!
    What I Learned in Kindergarten

  13. I love your Number Talks and I found you through google searching "ENVISION math ideas" for my 1st graders. I can't wait to use your dot flash cards to help my students remember certain numbers.

    I am your newest follower!

    -Lovely Nina

    Lovely Little Learners

  14. Thank you for posting specific examples of things the kids might say. This helps me know what to expect. I'm still learning how to effectively use the Rekenrek tool and believe it or not, I hadn't thought of using the top AND bottom racks to help students see sets of numbers to put together. Thank you for the insights and helping ME to have a better number sense!

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  35. Thanks for sharing these great dot cards and all the other ideas:-)

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